Presoaking stained or dingy laundry items can help restore your favorite things—be it a shirt or a child’s lovey—to their former brighter glory. And the reason is simple: soaking maximizes contact time between fabric and detergent.
Why a soak makes sense: When you immerse washable fabric in detergent and water, you give the cleanser and all its modern-day bells and whistles (the brighteners, the special crud-fighting enzymes, the sudsy stuff) time to soak into the fabric and lift stains.
For a basic presoak: Fill a sink, tub, or washing machine with enough water to cover your item, using the warmest water allowed on the fabric care label. Then add a measured full dose of your favorite detergent. Stir the water until the detergent is completely dissolved. Add your item. Presoak for 30 minutes, then launder as usual. (Always check the manufacturer’s label for laundry care instructions.)
For extra-tough stains: Mix a stain remover into the presoak with your detergent. If your clothes are brightly colored, make sure the stain remover has a color-safe form of bleach.